Saturday, November 22, 2008

It Could Always Be Worse

The Princess attends Shabbat School on Saturday afternoons at our synagogue and The Spouse and I thought we might use that time for a 2 hour mini-date. We dropped her off, hopped back in the car, began a conversation about our finances. I was optimistically insisting that we really did have enough set aside to do my major dental work next month, get through my unpaid break, and maybe even replace my laptop (whose display has begun a headache-inducing flicker) when the car's engine suddenly stopped. There was no smoke, no weird sounds, just no engine function.

We managed to pull the car to a stop in a no-parking space and I hopped out to look under the hood. Because, you know, I'm such a skilled mechanic. OK. I have no car skills whatsoever, but you have to look under the hood in case a helpful magic flag has popped up saying the problem is here.

No flag. And the dawning realization that the AAA membership had expired. I had figured it was one of those expenses we could forgo for a few months. I called home and had The Dark Lord find me phone numbers for towing companies, none of which answered on a Saturday afternoon. How are you supposed to run a tow company when you don't answer the phone? In frustration, I called AAA, sheepishly admitting that my membership had expired and I didn't really expect anything form them other then could they maybe just suggest a towing company that might answer the phone.

As it turns out, I was not the first ever lapsed member calling for emergency help. There was a $40 surcharge on top of the membership fee but I was happy to pay it if they would just send a tow truck. That's some fine marketing when people are happy to fork over extra money and feel good about it. They sent a truck promptly and The Spouse went home with the car.

As I was walking back to the synagogue to pick up The Princess I remembered the last time I'd been driving a car and it suddenly stopped. I was 8 months pregnant with The Princess in an old Toyota station wagon on that hot June day with my two boys (7 and 9 at the time) and everything we could need for a couple of nights at the beach with friends. We were headed up into the coast range when the engine simply stopped and I managed to get the car off on to the narrow shoulder next to a steep drop-off.

I had not yet joined the world of cell phone carriers and thought them a rather pretentious and unnecessary expense up until that day. I got out of the car, peered under the hood (because you've just got to try) and then stood there with traffic whizzing by and the sun beating down, trying to figure out how to get my giant self and my two boys out of the situation safely.

I must been a sorry sight because before long someone stopped and offered me a cell phone. It was another one of those times when I'd let my AAA lapse (yes, there's a pattern here) so I called my dear old dad who sent a tow truck and then promised to come the 60 or so miles to get us.

The tiny strip where we were parked sat between speeding traffic and a sheer drop so I wouldn't let the boys out no matter how squirrelly they got. After a while we were hungry and, being 8 months pregnant, I was desperate for a bathroom. It seemed like hours before the tow truck and my parents came to rescue us. Eventually we made it to the nearest Toyota dealership and I was presented with a staggering towing bill. The next day I was told that our timing belt had gone out and it would cost a ghastly sum to replace it. But we did, and then went on to throw more money at that old car before finally trading it in.

Being able to call from a cell phone and reinstate AAA so at least the towing wouldn't kill us was good. Having it not be super hot and not being hungry or pregnant was even better. Visiting the mechanic on Monday will be ugly, and the dream of replacing my blinky computer anytime soon is probably going to be on hold for a while. But I was grateful that things were resolved relatively painlessly today.

It occurs to me that my cars only break down when I don't have AAA so I may have learned my lesson.


shula said...

that flickering screen thing?

That's BAD.

Back up your system. Now.

Mimi said...

I keep waiting for a flag on my car too, but no such luck.

prayers for the car, and laptop.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I'd like a disc-doctor sort of feature for my car.

Of course, when I get the error messages, I still have to call my favorite computer geek to figure it out!

I, too, have twice learned my lesson about car breakdowns and lapsed AAA membership. This leads to a question: How does the car know when I've done it?

Oh. And bitter experience tells me that Shula is right! Do back up system.

Liz Ness said...

What beautiful things you make! Also, what amazing stories about the lapse of AAA and engine failure. Kind of makes a person think...